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10 Head-scratching Job Titles

by
Lance Haun
Nov 17, 2011, 5:05 am ET

Director of Fun.

That was the title I was looking at on a resume for a marketing director position. As I read through the applicant’s accomplishments and responsibilities, I could see that it was clearly a marketing-type position. It stuck out, just not in a good way.

What may have seemed like a great little thing to have on a business card as an attention-getter had now turned into a liability. Nobody knows what a “Director of Fun” does. And sure, maybe “Marketing Director” isn’t all that specific on its own, but give me some context (industry, company size, and market) and I can pretty quickly figure out what you’re doing.

Using these fun titles externally is a mistake.

What’s in a Title?

Now listen, I’m not a super stickler for titles. I know it’s what you actually do that’s the real important point.

If you’re an HR manager but you’re doing HR assistant work, I’m going to treat you as such (and vice verse as well). And we know title inflation is a big part of the hiring process and it can help make business transactions flow easier. Go into large banks and insurance brokerages, some with hundreds of branches and I’ll bet you find a VP or SVP in the building.

Wacky job titles simply confuse most real people.

So yes, titles can be B.S., but I think most people know that. If you walk into a brokerage and find most people are managers and directors and the top guy is a SVP, you still contextually know people’s roles and who is in charge. It might be a shift in thinking, but you aren’t reinventing the wheel.

Now “Director of Fun”? Or “Corporate Magician”?

Fun titles Not So Fun in the Real World

Some organizations think funky job titles are a great way of expressing a company’s culture or to stand out from the crowd. Moo.com sent over some of the most interesting examples of this. Here are my top 10 head-scratching titles Moo listed, in no particular order: 

  1. Sales Ninja
  2. New Media Guru
  3. Social Media Trailblazer
  4. Corporate Magician
  5. Master Handshaker
  6. Communications Ambassador
  7. Happiness Advocate
  8. Marketing Rockstar
  9. Problem Wrangler
  10. Digital Dynamo

Master handshaker? Problem wrangler? Whose hands do these people shake, and what problems do they wrangle?

In a quote from the press release, Moo.com’s Paul Lewis says,

“Traditional one-word job titles no longer act as an accurate description of what a person does or what they are like. So why not stand out a bit by giving yourself a job title that sums you up as a person rather than limits you to just one aspect of what you do.”

The funny part to me is that Lewis is credited as Head of Marketing (and here, too, on his Twitter profile). And while it may not stick out, I know that he is in charge of marketing. This is helpful if I ever need to get in touch with someone in marketing at Moo.com, or if I ever need to hire someone with some marketing chops.

Taking a Step Back

Fun titles can be great for internal teams. It can help put a fun spin on being at work, especially at some of the less pleasant, white-collar jobs that are out there.

But when it comes to dealing with people outside of the company, it is time to make a decision: do you communicate what you do clearly, or, do you avoid that and try to educate every single person you meet about that fun job title — only to have them forget what you actually do five minutes after they meet you? Or worse, you are mocked for not having a real title and people question your business skills and savvy?

Even the Gen Y guy inside me knows the right answer: you always pick clarity first.

Once a client or business partner gets to know you and your company, they’ll know you’re fun and cool, even in spite of an ordinary job title. And you should be just fine with that.

This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to offer specific legal advice. You should consult your legal counsel regarding any threatened or pending litigation.

  1. Michael Brandt

    Another one for you that was tagged to a couple of Vurv guys:

    Product Evangelist

    Mike Brandt
    BrightMove Recruiting Software

  2. James Rowbotham

    What’s in a name?

    I agree that it is unprofessional to put a title like that on a resume or a business card but does it make your job any more ambiguous? I’d say that having a title of “Sales Executive” is just as vague as “Sales Ninja”.. It doesn’t say anything about what you sell.

  3. Keith Halperin

    @ Michael: Thats so Twen-Cen. How about:
    “Product Jihadist”?

    One place Iworked it seemd there were fourtitles for jobs:
    1) What HR/ATS called it
    2) What Recruiting called it
    3) Whatthe hirng managers called it
    4) What people outside the company called it

    Cheers,

    Keith

  4. Carol Schultz

    Lance: Please clarify something for me. “Director of Fun” was the job title the candidate held or the job title he was looking for? I want to make a comment but want clarification first. Thanks.

  5. Lance Haun

    Carol: That was the title on their resume from their last job.

    Keith: I know that feeling…

    James: I think I mostly agree about the ambiguity in that particular title but I can tell you who I’d rather deal with in a professional capacity.

    Michael: Evangelists, gurus, and ninjas. I’ve seen more of that in the last year on real online profiles.

  6. Keith Halperin

    Making up job titles is a pleasant time-suck.
    Sometimes I think of myself as a:
    “Master Itinerant Hiring Agent” or
    “Wholesale Meat Distributor” or
    “Some Other Titles Not Appropriate for the Delicate Sensibilities of Our Gentle Readers”

    Keith

  7. Nick Herbold

    I agree with Lance that ‘Director of Fun’ is poor form on a resume, because it fails to reference a particular function. It might be an appropriate title for a job posting (which I think Carol was alluding to), which serves more as a piece of marketing collateral.

    I’m not sure that Lance’s argument for ‘creative’ titles to be relegated for internal use only is a strong one. It’s rare that a title is delivered without context, so I’m not sure much time is wasted on educating folks to what they mean. Our team implements a number of fun titles (www.thelevelup.com/about), and as a mobile gaming company can we take ourselves too seriously? This doesn’t mean our sales reps start a conversation with “Hi I’m Adam a Pinball Wizard here to talk to you about…” Instead you build rapport in other ways and creative titles might be leveraged at a fun talking point during the conversation.

    I assume the use of creative titles is not an internal/external discussion, but like most things should be taken on a situational basis and requires thinking about your potential audience. Consider some example scenarios:

    Resume – Functional Title (recruiters need to know what you did at a glance)
    LinkedIn Profile – Functional Title (people are looking for you and you need to be found)
    Business Card – Fun Title (are you ever going to distribute your card without context?)
    Email Signature – Fun Title (does it matter? The content of the email explains the purpose. Deliver an extra chuckle with your email).
    Nametag – Depends on the audience eh?

    Thanks for the great post Lance!

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